An aluminum company says it will build a $1.3 billion facility near the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, pledging to hire 550 employees earning average salaries of $70,000 in an area devastated by the loss of coal and manufacturing jobs.
Braidy Industries Inc. says the 2.5 million-square-foot facility in Greenup County, Kentucky, will produce 370,000 tons of aluminum for the automotive and aerospace industries, two of Kentucky's largest manufacturing sectors. The company says it expects 1,000 workers will be needed to build the plant next year, with construction to be completed in 2020.
"Braidy Industries' decision to locate in Eastern Kentucky has the potential to be as significant as any economic deal ever made in the history of Kentucky," Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said in a news release.
Bevin hinted at the project last month when he asked state lawmakers to give him authority to borrow up to $15 million to lure a mystery company to eastern Kentucky. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval Wednesday for up to $10 million in tax incentives for the company, which would get the tax breaks only if it meets investment and job targets over the next several years.
Jobs are sorely needed in the heart of Appalachia, which has been slow to recover from the effects of the Great Recession. In nearby Ashland, AK Steel has laid off more than 600 workers when it idled its plant last year, citing competition from China. Thousands of coal jobs have disappeared as that industry declines across the region.
Kentucky has announced several large projects recently, including Amazon pledging to bring 2,700 as part of a worldwide cargo air hub near Cincinnati and an additional $1.33 billion investment by Toyota into its central Kentucky plant that makes its flagship Camry sedans.
Kentucky is now the third largest auto-producing state, and its aerospace exports have jumped 183 percent in the past five years, according to the state Cabinet for Economic Development.
"Our team recognizes an opportunity to make incredible impacts both in the global aluminum industry and in bringing well-paying jobs to Eastern Kentucky in the heart of Appalachia," said Craig Bouchard, Braidy Industries chairman and CEO.
Bevin said the project would not have been possible had the state legislature not banned mandatory union dues this year. The "right-to-work" legislation was one of the first laws approved by the state's new Republican majority, and supporters said it was needed to attract companies like Braidy Industries.
Opponents said it would weaken labor unions, leading to lower wages and unsafe working environments.